Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some Reading for the Botany Fans

The blog carnival Berry-Go-Round #31 is up at A Blog Around the Clock. For those that are not familiar with a blog carnival, it is a grouping of interesting posts on a similar topic. Berry-Go-Round is a blog carnival that features plants.

So check it out and learn about apples, peat moss, jewelweed, pollination, sugar beets, cleft phlox and more!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Luna Moth Caterpillar and Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

At Cave Lake, we not only were able to see loads of cool flora, we also viewed some pretty cool beasties, as well. It isn't a secret that I really like caterpillars, so when we found some truly interesting ones, I was stoked!

We found a patch of Prickly Ash, Zanthoxylum americanum, and I wondered out loud if we could find a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar, Papilio cresphontes, on the leaves. Not more than a few seconds later, sharp-eyed Diana Boyd from Keystone Flora found one, right under my nose.

Like a bizarre Tickle Me Elmo for science geeks, you tickle the little caterpillar bird poo mimic and teeee-heeee!...

out pops its osmeterium and a not so pleasant smell. It protects the little caterpillar from nosy birds looking for a snack by scaring the feathers off of them.

A little later, John Howard was flipping over leaves and found this lime green beauty, a Luna Moth caterpillar, Actias luna.

Such a cool caterpillar and one I rarely get to see. It will become one of the most beautiful moths out there.

Here is one we raised from a caterpillar a few years ago. I love how the edges of the wings blend right in with the branch, with tiny leaf bud detailing. While hanging high up in a tree, it would go unnoticed by most. So amazing!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bottle Gentian and the Bumblebee

Saturday, the Ohio Heritage Naturalist group descended upon Cave Lake YMCA Park to check out the flora and fauna. Right inside the gate, we were greeted with the tiny tin horn call of four to five Red-breasted Nuthatches, Sitta canandensis. "Ank, ank, ank" they called as they flitted among the evergreens, plucking seeds from the cones.

Photo from Wikipedia

We decided on a side trip to neighboring Pike State Forest. There was a nice wetland area with White Turtlehead, Chelone glabra, Closed Bottle Gentian, Gentiana andrewsii, and many asters and sedges.

John Howard spotted a bumblebee on a gentian. This was something I really wanted to see! Bumblebees are pretty much the only pollinator for Closed Bottle Gentian.

The petals of this flower never open, but remain closed, causing the flower to look like it is always in bud. Bumblebees are the only insects strong enough to force their way into the flower to devour the nectar and collect the pollen. The gentian relies on this symbiotic relationship to produce seed and more little gentians.

Bottoms Up!

The group gathered around and witnessed the bee shoving itself down into the blossom. It wrestled around in there for a long time, throwing out pens, pencils, erasers and other items as it searched for the nectar. Oh, wait. I am confused. That was me earlier today looking for a battery. But in my defense, Bumble was in there an awfully long time...
I think it wrote an entire script for a B movie while it was in there. It was probably distracted by the inside of the flower. There are nectar guides to help the bumblebee find the pollen and nectar. This one seemed to be having some trouble finding it...
The blue and white stripes from the nectar guides of the gentian
Maybe it was in there making a beeaded handbag? Those can take a long time.
Or possibly cooking some Bee-f Bourguignon? It takes six hours to make that.

Finally, it made its way out of the blossom to... DIVE RIGHT INTO ANOTHER BLOSSOM.

Un-bee-lievable ! :)